H.C.P. and the RIFLE

After finding the visual evidence implying the heavy NRT in the Park Museum could have belonged to the sharpshooter, another question came to mind. Why didn't young Rosensteel find the carrying case, the ram rod and the other various items missing unto this day?

I assume that if the lad did find the rifle within the "Home" site then he could have collected everything laying around that went with it. He may not have recognized the case, but he should have grabbed the ram rod and the shooter's bag (which seems to appear in photo 2 just this side of the freshly spread blanket). By all indications, the place was a treasure chest of soldier stuff. I think a 17-year-old would know plenty about and have a keen interest in common rifles and such.

But the "Home" photo shows by its marvelous contents that, by Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, the site had not been pilfered. Rosensteel had not returned to pick out anything more. Perhaps he did see the sharpshooter lying as if sleeping in his "Home" and it scared him (it would have scared me). But if that were the case, then why would he have enough nerve to go "in" and grab the rifle? It seemed I couldn't make sense of anything unless I had that rifle removed from the "Home" site by the shell blast. And, unlike the sharpshooter who appeared untouched, the rifle sure does look like it took on a nearby blast force. Eventually, I settled on the following scenario. It is based somewhat on my own average physical height, but it works out fairly well.

The "Shrine" Click here to see The Shrine painting

I've made a lot of stone walls myself and I am pretty sure this fellow could have built his careless "wall" all by himself and in less than three hours-- if there were plenty of stones nearby and no one to offer assistance. That stated, I should add that my thoughts are he had help. I have studied this fellow's hands and found nothing testifying to their sole involvement.

When the sharpshooter was building his wall he made it about a foot higher than the one showing in the "Home" photo and the one which nearly matches that in the park today. My reasoning is the one in the photo and, by its copy, the one in the park today, are too short for an average man to stand comfortably behind to get a good rest shot. I tried it myself and I had to bend my back to rest my stick "rifle" upon it for a steady shot at LRT. It wasn't comfortable. On the other hand, it's too high to get off a sitting shot.

Using the photo to plot the position on the ground today, I was able to get an average measurement from the sharpshooter's right knee to his head. This span measured approx. four feet. Which is what my own head to knee measures out to. And so I'm comfortable thinking this fellow and I are similar in height. Ergo, that wall was probably higher. Plus, for really fine work, I feel he would have added a shelf for resting his elbows on while he took aim (just maybe using that flatter "shelf" rock the photographers removed from his flattened legs). And a higher wall would have made the shooter feel more secure against return fire. I should also mention that this poorly-interlocking loose stone "wall" is much thicker at its base and more substantial at its top than the current reconstruction at the park. In retrospect, this "shrine" wall could be aptly described as a stone pile. Still, it was a sturdy creation for the sharpshooter to place his faith in and a testament to his role in battle.

After building his shrine to the proper height the soldier would have likely placed that piece of rotten stump-wood as a rest to protect his rifle and cushion the muzzle when fired. Short of a heavy sandbag, I can imagine nothing better he might have been using. As I show in the "Shrine" painting, the heavy octagonal barrel and forward center of gravity would enable it to rest firmly upon the wall-- and all by itself. There would be no need for the sharpshooter to even hold it there between shots (no up and down hefting while waiting for a target to expose itself). Of course, perfect barrel stability could be attained by carving a shallow groove in the stump-wood.

The shooter probably had a love-hate relationship with this particular rifle. He could only marvel proudly upon its performance. From a great distance he could singlehandedly drive a cannon or battery from the field. Yet it could not be used effectively without a rest position. Climbing trees then loading and firing this rife was an impossibility. Mobility during action was hardly plausible. Cleaning between shots then reloading was a time-consuming and tricky operation. And the darned thing was an absolute curse to carry around. Just imagine, on top of that twenty-five pound soldiers' load you would normally have to lug around, you have this 36 lb. "prize" to boot (its extra accouterments adding further weight. I can readily believe the usual mode of transport for this rifle was by wagon).

Considering the distance to LRT, I feel certain this fellow would think his rifle pretty safe and secure by itself--trigger downwards, scope topside-- as it rested atop the wall between shots.

His home is well hidden with a good-sized bush growing in front of the left boulder. With luck, his shrine just may be invisible to the yanks atop that hill in the distance. But he could see them well enough.

I reason this sharpshooter is given his assignment before nightfall on the 2nd day. Considering the heft of his considerable and specialized equipment, he may even hitch a ride from the Emittsburg Road in one of the wagons sent out to get the wounded. Asking a nearby Captain's permission, he probably gets help from the numerous Georgians around him as he begins his task. In about an hour a significant mass of heavy stones has been piled between and in front of the boulders. The shrine is nearly complete. After bidding respects to his helpers, the sharpshooter makes camp and tries to get some rest. Minor and final adjustment to the inside wall of the "shrine" will take place at dawn. No one on the hill will see his movements now.

Throughout the night the sharpshooter remains close to his "Home", guarding his gear. There are confederate pickets nearby and perhaps he visits with them-- or maybe walks west and down the hill to the larger gathering of troops for conversation or a hot drink. He is keenly aware of the pathetic cries of the wounded nearby, by sporadic gunfire and the incessant noise from the direction of LRT. It is apparent the Northerners are busy with their own construction projects. Those cannon will only be tougher targets on the morrow. Fitfully, he tries to sleep back near the cedar.

He is awake earlier than necessary. The pickets positioned around the "Duck"to his front are now drifting back, leaving the ridge. Some exchange farewells with him. Alone, he sets about fine-tuning his shrine. He carefully loads and sets his target rifle in its crowning position. His accoutrements are placed handily among the rock "shelfs" of his wall. The waiting seems interminable. In the distance the rifle fire is picking up with the light. His own heavy "match rifle" will add to that war-chorus soon enough. He notices the ground in front of his creation has been worn of its grassy cover. Retrieving his bedding rug, he lays it out over the bare and stony ground; better to soil that than his uniform. Besides, if he drops any loading tools or those pristine target bullets, they will be unharmed by the fall.

His feet are hurting from the tightness of the "new" shoes he is wearing. He tries to relax, deciding to break his fast with one of several biscuits stored within his tin cup. As he eats he ponders the distant hill. Afterwards, he sits down on his knapsack and fires his pipe. Dawn casts flecks of pink and gold upon the ramparts of his home.

This is the time I choose to portray him. For months now, I have studied him carefully through the photographs....struggling with the sparse clues they provide. I would be the first to tell you that those six photos contain a wealth of information. Yet, when it comes to recapturing a once living personage they provide only vexation. Small wonder that he has remained unidentified by viewers of the "Home". In truth he cannot look like himself. His mouth is barely discernible beneath that now days-old cloak of death. It is tainted by some noticeable swelling, by gravity and forever relaxed and useless muscle. What of the strength, character, and determination it once would offer? Gone forever. And so, regrettably, maybe even thankfully, imagination must attempt to fill the void.

And those eyes! They are closed and their secrets locked against me. Contrary to our right, we have nothing with which to judge this man's soul. Nothing to guide an artist's hand. Again and with nothing more availing, intuition must suffice.

In my thoughts I try to imagine his face in the classic three-quarter, animated again with life, its elements in harmony; a puzzle extreme! Something sympathetic and well beyond that death- mask oblivion. I am surely doomed to frustration. With imagination I peer in from beyond his "home". With my brushes I reach across the distance that separates us. I touch his illusory shape. The coat, the pants. The hat and those shoes. They emerge from a soft haze of oil and pigment to appear as they once did in life and a day long past. Now, with reticence but deliberation and hope, I begin touching his face with my brushes, seeking his attention.

I detect some faint response arising from the flesh-colored murk. An unsettling period of trial and error contact takes over my hand and subconscious.

Presently, as if once again proud and pleased with his soldier's attire, HCP turns at my direction. He opens his eyes and stares at me. Now beyond my brush he gives me the once over. For a brief moment he looks across time. He looks into my eyes and he judges my soul.

Then he turns away from me, worried and wearied from his world and its duties. He ponders his under-blanket laying freshly spread before his shrine. Presently he removes his shoes. He will work in comfort and freedom. If the need arises, he can slip them back on quick enough.

July 3rd is shaping up to be one heck of a scorcher. As he works within the morning shadow from his "shrine", the sharpshooter carefully delivers against the smoke-spouting battery atop LRT. The hill seems alive as the monsters atop its crest emit thunder and those long plumes of billowing whiteness. The sharpshooter wonders about his own smoke cloud. It is considerable. Still, his common sharpshooter brethren are firing their Enfields from the woods at the base of that bigger hill to his right. They should draw the yanks' attention from his own location. There are no sharpshooters situated around his area. At his direction they were told to stay clear. There will be nothing nearby to arouse the enemy's attention. He reloads his weapon and sets the heavy piece in ready position atop his wall. Then he waits for opportunity and potential targets to show themselves behind those distant fortifications.

Telescopic view of sharpshooter's home from battery position atop LRT-1998. A bush partially obscured the large right side boulder during the battle.

After his final shot he checks for effect and reloads his piece. Then he places the implements and ramrod aside and hefts the rifle back over its stump-wood rest. Peering through his sight to check for new targets, he sees commotion on the hill and quickly deduces something is up. In the heat-shimmering distance, there is a blue soldier with a "glass" pointing in his direction and, moving his scope, he warily notes one of the battery crews are moving a gun around to face him. He sees that small black muzzle coming into direct view. He wonders with swift calculation....could they be turning a gun to fire at troops or a Confederate battery well behind him towards the Emmitsburg Road? He can't see beyond the cedar behind him but figures it may be time to make an exit from his "Home".

There is no further reason to stick around and trade shots. He knows he may now be the target. Perhaps he has made note of the comparatively small 3-inch bore of those cannon atop the hill and has dismissed them as relatively puny against his fortress. He bends down and begins collecting his gear, still confident that his faithful shrine will protect him. At this stage, his major fear is what will happen when he leaves his shrine's protective cover. He will cross that bridge when it comes but now, due to the amount of equipment he owns, it will take him quite a while to gather it all. Therein lies the fatal check to egress. He thinks he has time to make a complete escape. He hurriedly slips on his shoes, places a knapsack-strap around his neck rather than his shoulder and the haversack-strap goes around over that. His open blanket is truly a spark from home and family and he goes to collect it. He kneels and begins gathering it for stowage into the haversack. He will carry his heavy rifle encased from his shoulders and across his back and so the knapsack must be borne at his side instead. Hunkered down some four feet behind his wall he surely and nimbly prepares for his retreat.

The Desecration of the Shrine Click here to see the Desecration

The small cannon on the hill are rifled Parrotts and, their small muzzle's aside, they are formidable in their destructive ability (the large split boulder I found beside Plum Run in the gorge today bears witness, at least in my mind, to the amazing power delivered by these rifled and very accurate cannon--found in the "Battlescape" summary report, see what you think). The sharpshooter's position is well within their range of accuracy. A stationary target, the "Home" will be little more than gunnery practice. I cannot say which shell, the first or second fired, did the deed (I'm thinking 'first' as the rifle would almost have to be atop the shrine when the explosion occurred) but I do believe a case shot (not a percussion shell) exploded just forward of the loose stone wall. As I show in my second painting, the exploding shell blew a maelstrom against and across the top of the "shrine" and down between the funneled boulders. Whatever was lying atop the shrine went with it and everything in alignment within and beyond the "Home" was swept away as if from a gigantic shotgun blast. ( I think the sharpshooter had left his rifle lying atop the wall still pointing toward the hill and the oncoming blast. In consequence, the top of the rifle received a round shot which tore away the rear of its scope, driving itself into that torn end, causing it to flange out around the ball. The ocular easily separated and flew its unknown way. The rifle cartwheeled straight back towards the rear of the home and struck its stock squarely and solidly against the top straight-edge of the small rock shelf beneath the cedar tree. Then it went spinning barrel over end. ) The cedar directly behind and in the force's scattering path becomes a blurry spray of boughs and chips. It ends up a splintered path of debris extending west from the home and possibly covering the rifle. The 5-inch deciduous tree loses some branches and leaves but is shielded by the large left boulder of the "Home". The wall's top layer of stump and shelf-stones topple over and down onto the luckless soldier, perhaps killing him outright. The smoke cleared and all became quiet--at least from the view atop LRT.

The gunners on the hill still see the wall seemingly undamaged and believe their first shot/s was ineffective. They prepare to deliver their next blow. This time, and in tune with Augustus Martin's account, they load a percussion shell. Upon delivery, this shell strikes the large boulder on the left (Martin's right) of the sharpshooter's position and explodes solidly.[As I mentioned earlier, I believe this final shell left the mark showing today on the east face of that large boulder. Of course, I wasn't a witness. There is no ultimate way to prove that strange "dent" occurred by a shell hit. I am not aware of anyone ever noticing this mark or making the possible connection. I encourage the reader to examine the site for themselves. I should point out that regardless of what type of shell did the deed, the sharpshooter was well behind his wall when it hit. There is nothing to indicate the soldier was exposed to the direct blast of the explosion (only the rifle). And his death may be attributed to concussion instead of a bump on the noggin. Admittedly, I know not the actual dampening effects of a stone barrier against a concussion wave.]

After the shell explodes against the east side of the boulder, the gunners receive no further reports from the "Home" site and figure they have driven the culprit off.

The next day, Saturday, Augustus Martin and other artillerists descend to the Den and discover the sharpshooter lying dead behind his toppled wall with no apparent injuries. They remove some of the wall rocks (excepting those laying on the legs) and actually perform a rather thorough inspection of the soldier's body--opening his patch-pocket frock-coat, unbuttoning his white shirt, even undoing his fancy belt and exposing his lower abdomen. Finding nothing wrong with his "vitals", they conclude he died from concussion. [And who am I to say otherwise. We can assume the Union soldiers made note of and discounted the two straps encircling the body's neck]

Either the artillerists do not see the rifle or they conclude it to be too damaged for further value. Furthermore, they are artillerists and would have no more than a curious urge to collect the unusual piece. If one of them did pick it up with the intent to carry it off as a war-prize, then he soon might have discarded it when its weight took effect on his shoulders.

On Sunday young Rosensteel has an adventure after chores, church and Sunday dinner. He visits the area of Little Round Top and the Plum Run Gorge and finds many relics of the fierce battle. He searches throughout the Devil's Den. Exuberant, he comes upon the peculiar rifle lying amidst the cedar debris. Being a clever fellow he notices the destruction from the shell-blast and follows it back to the "Home" where he gets the fright of his life. He sees a Confederate soldier "sleeping" between the rocks. He would see no injury and there would be no signs of swelling. He may notice the stone/s lying upon the man's lower body but that aside and hefting his prize, he is on the lam away from there. Days will pass before he returns for a second check. By that time the "sleeping" soldier will be gone.

On Tuesday (or Wednesday), the "Home" and its treasure is caught in silver nitrate for eternity. The photographers remove the tree and flatten the undergrowth around its base and the left side of the shell-cropped cedar. Stones laying on the lower legs are mostly removed. The open frock coat is draped back over the body. One photographer straddles the body and grasps the frock coat by its third and fourth button edges, lifting the upper body while his mate pushes the knapsack under the head and props it towards the camera. The right arm is placed across the chest. They take one very good plate first, then, after removing and spreading a blanket from the haversack, follow it with a good stereo. The sharpshooter is dragged from his "Home" and hidden down the hill. The photographers play 'look and see' with his knapsack and piddle around the body for quite a while. They partially dump some white powder (baking powder? Talcum?) and actually put a small amount onto a "teaspoon". Biscuits and other items appear and photography begins. They move things here and there but they cannot get a story going like before, proving the adage that the best discoveries and ideas come by accident as opposed to design. They eventually leave the body right there where it quickly degenerates. I feel certain they did not move it elsewhere. Their next photo--Gibson having returned from wherever-- is taken some 40 yards further South-west down the hillside and displays a different, and, as usual, swollen confederate body. The Library of Congress has this view and judging by the light and shadows on the rocks, it looks like a late-afternoon shot.

I assume the sharpshooter is eventually buried in a very shallow "grave" some six feet to the West of his last "ear-portrait" position, by a farmer who does not want the stinky thing rotting near his cattle. Lets face it....who would want to carry the dead man back to some other collection site. If the earth will allow it then why not just bury the fellow right there? So the farmer gets his son/s and a shovel and carves out an 18-inch deep hole. Problem solved. I know the Union dead were removed from this area after the battle ended and were not present when Gardner and his associates arrived. But I have found nothing to say or imply what happened to the Confederate dead lying about the Devil's Den area.

And so, I do think this soldier I call a sharpshooter is buried thereabouts. That is, unless he was transplanted later or some other photographs come to light showing the sharpshooter in yet another locale.

The "Shrine" falls

The body exits but the shrine wall remains as an icon to the role of the sharpshooter in battle. Sightseers and the seasons helps reduce the mass but most of it probably succumbs to the proverbial "swords to plowshares" rule. Eventually, the local farmer decides to make his wooden rail fence more substantial and constructs a North to South stone model nearby at the "Triangular Field". Thus the "Sharpshooter's Shrine" parts out for the "Farmer's Shrine". Rather ironically, the movement of the sharpshooter DOWN the hill places him within spitting distance to that future stone N-S wall. If he is buried there, then he now rests beneath the evening shadow of the peaceful offspring to his own warring creation.

In Summation

I will end my artistic reconstruction here. As an artist, I often attempt to reconstruct events in my mind so as to re-create them on canvas. But nothing in my imagination-except the pipe in the sharpshooter's mouth-was created without some visual evidence to support it. As for the pipe not being found within the photos, I can only reply that I never found a knife either-- and I know he had to have one of those. Pipes and knifes were as valuable as currency and would be quickly grabbed by either army.

I have a few more observations to deliver but allow me to present my Acknowledgements now.

My Thanks

I have always counted myself fortunate to be born healthy and able-bodied in America. My parents and family suited me to a "T". And I was certainly lucky meeting Carolyn in psych-class twenty-seven years ago. My first thanks go to my wife for all the usual reasons.

My second thanks go to Kurt Graham of Georgia, whose efforts towards finding HCP were, to say the least, exhaustive. I credit the modest Mr. Graham as a first class researcher in the Civil War realm. I would refer to him as NST on some occasions (No Stone Unturned). I met Mr. Graham last summer while he was visiting the area. He wanted to check out my large "Battlescape". I could tell he was no slouch when he pointed out that my largest confederate flag resembled an Army of Tennessee Battle Flag (post winter '63-64) and should have, instead, been a battleflag square typical to the Army of Northern Virginia types (I make mistakes). Still, he recognized my Gettysburg battle-scene as a worthy accomplishment and purchased one. Then he made the mistake of asking me what CW subject I was working on next. He was careful and thoughtful and, as I soon found out, would never jump to any quick conclusions. He listened to my brief synopsis of visual cues and gave me his word of confidentiality not to discuss it with another soul. Later on I received his email citing his belief that I was on to something. Then he made the bigger mistake of volunteering to try and find the name-match for HCP.

And I am certain he will. As Kurt said, he "loves a mystery".

I wish to thank William Frassanito for producing his excellent and thought-provoking books on Gettysburg Photography. His work is a treasure trove of visual stimuli for my eyes and imagination; just what every artist needs.

Thanks are due to the National Park Service for maintaining the Battlefield in its near pristine condition. May you continue to do so. Thanks for prohibiting digging. Thanks for allowing us unknowns to freely trek and access the fields in quest of research. Thanks for the warm Visitor's Center on a cold day and its many visual displays and battle accouterments.

My thanks also to Steve Holbrook, at the Cyclorama entrance desk, who gave me the information about the young Rosensteel who found the sharpshooter's rifle. Mr. Holbrook, my brother, Patrick, and I also enjoyed your friendly and informative lecture on sharpshooters (the rest of my thoughts concerning Rosensteel's actions came from my own imagination).

All too often I fail to mention the help and support I receive from my loved ones. I come from a large family. A large, close, friendly and helpful family. I know that if not for their attentions, considerations, advice and sometimes critical responses to my unusual but usual endeavors, I should not be the wise fool that I am. My thanks go to my parents, Robert J. and Rhoda M. Groves. Then to my sisters Anne and Judy (thanks for going along to DC and looking out for your clumsy brother). My brothers Patrick, Michael, Barry , David and Robert were, as always, supportive and helpful.

I end my thanks with a note to those of you who, through your support of my efforts, have, for the many years now, continually allowed me the chance to create. Your desire to have something from my hand is my greatest reward as a landscape painter.

The Absolute "O"

What about the item "O" in that Sharpshooter's Home" (photo 1) detail? I thought it better to tell you about it now.

Photo 1 detail/LOC

"O" is a hefty rock lying atop the sharpshooter's lower right shin and ankle. I can see why somebody studying this photo might have missed this rounded rock- it being the same gray tone as the pants-leg. But, nevertheless, it is a rock. And it has been laying on that lower leg for the four-day duration; I can tell just from the sight of it. You probably can too....its practically melded to that leg...notice how the pant-leg surrounds it. What you are seeing here is a rounded rock laying like a 'roosting bird in its nest' on that pant-leg while photographed at the "Home". This rock is also visible in photo 2 (taken with a stereo camera, proving actuality to what was recorded by the plate camera).

Wait a small moment here and bear with me while I go off on another of my seeming tangents.

I am aware that all my numerous visual clues together do not constitute absolute proof that the body was found at the "Sharpshooter's Home". But you must, by reasonable standards, accept those clues as strong evidence for the sharpshooter's true role.

In my own case, the three-quarter head-shot told me with good certainty where the body was found. My naivety required little more than that. To myself as an artist, that visual clue was as sure as knowing the sun will rise tomorrow.

But I realize that it is not an absolute fact that the sun will rise tomorrow. I know and understand that won't be a fact until it happens. Still, I live life routinely, safe and secure in my belief that it will rise.

But there are a variety of people who inhabit this Earth and some of you require the absolute. I respect you. As an artist of high standards, I also seek some form of the absolute and so I can sympathize with those of you who cannot accept the numerous clues I have supplied herein. Even now you may be saying to yourself that this rambling painter has PROVED absolutely ZILCH.

The absolutists aside, I also know there are those of you who still maintain a faint hope that what you have been holding dear for years can somehow still be gospel (although I should wonder why you would want this soldier to be someone other than a sharpshooter). If you are a member of this faction, you may be thinking just maybe that rock hasn't been lying on that pant-leg for four days. Perhaps it was placed there by the photographers to make it look like the wall had collapsed a bit onto the "sharpshooter". Or maybe your eyes tell you that rock is between the body's legs and not resting on the right shin and ankle and pant-leg.

Regardless which category applies, I know some of you reading this are not yet convinced. You want that "smoking gun" proof that the sharpshooter was found laying beneath that rock wall shrine in his "home". Nothing else will sway your firm convictions.

With that in mind, I ask you to look again at the four photos taken DOWN the hill. Especially notice photo 4 (made with a stereo camera) as it shows it best. Specifically, notice that crater in the soldiers's right pant-leg formed by the hefty rock from the wall (O) just shown. In appearance, it's like a bird's nest.

So you see, plainly contained and exhibited within these last two photographic details, is the "smoking gun". I cannot find a way around this visual truth. I must rank this proof as decidedly better than an eyewitness account. A witness may lie or stretch truth or memory. These cameras (Stereo and Plate) did neither and both agree to what they "saw". Detail of photo 4

That pant-leg had a rounded rock laying upon it for several days. The rock's weight caused it to eventually sink down to the soldier's leg-bone. You must agree it made a nice impression.

Dragging the body down the hill would not ultimately hide its origin. The soldier I believe to be a sharpshooter WAS killed behind his "shrine", and Augustus Martin's story about seeing him there appears to be true.


You may be wondering why I waited until last to point out this absolute proof. Why go to the trouble to think out and type this whole dissertation woven around clues when I had actual photographic proof (from two separate cameras) the body was found at the wall and boulders?

Forgive me, I am an artist. In my case, I take paint and manipulate the colorful stuff on canvas over a period of days or even weeks....just to present to your eye something I could have conveyed with words in a brief statement of fact. In effect, that rounded rock lying on the sharpshooter's leg was as boring in abrupt fact as it was grey in color. It needed some "decoration".

As these photographs show from their amazing assortment of clues, there is so much to be gleaned through the visual senses. It could have been initially, simply, and briefly conveyed to your ear...but it would not be the same as "visually" showing it ALL to you. I hope you will judge it to be well worth your time and consideration.

Photographic Evidence in Conflict with CW History

History says through various stories that the Devil's Den was a stronghold of sharpshooters on the 3rd day of battle. For example, we have been told there were many dead sharpshooters (killed by cannon fire) found amongst the boulders.

Through inference, the photographer's work on this part of the battlefield shows otherwise.

Apparently, the swollen bodies they found and recorded in the area were all killed on the 2nd day of conflict. Only one body killed on the third day came to light and it was deemed in appearance so rare and valuable that it was found then HIDDEN- and a total of six known photographic studies taken from it. I must surmise if there were any other "good-looking" bodies lying around, the photographers wouldn't have wasted their time trying to hide the one they found in the "Home".

All the accouterments evidence shown in those "Home"photos also strongly indicate this sharpshooter was alone on the ridge. As for the gorge and the large boulders therein, the non-existence of photographs presenting slightly swollen bodies shows no evidence of Confederates killed on the third day in that realm either. [Perhaps the numerous sharpshooters all "got away" and did not choose to look after their fellow marksman a short distance nearby. But, as mentioned earlier, from the rear of Houck's Ridge, it would have been a safe and easy check to accomplish. So... if they were around there....why didn't they go to his aid?]

Additionally, if there were other Confederate bodies killed on the 3rd day (not as swollen, better appearance) you can be certain Gardner and friends would have found and recorded at least some of them. The photographs taken in the Plum Run Gorge-Devil's Den area appear, through their lighting, to have been made from morning until well into the afternoon. Thus, I feel this region would have likely been well-explored by the three photographers.

To the Military Park and its Visitors

I do hope the Park Service will "see" the truth in these observations and, at the very least, remove the current display. The present reconstructed wall "shrine" is very apropos. To my sensibilities, it is a very fitting and, in some respects, a more appropriate memorial than most of those around it. For a hundred years this intermittently rebuilt shrine has sufficed and the fallen soldier was revered as a sharpshooter. His memory should once again be held in honor and he should be credited for his probable role in battle.

I have visited the battlefield many times and I often see the memorial wreaths placed in situ where a brave one has fallen while doing his duty for honor and love of country. I sympathize with the sensitive and caring souls who place these mementos. These individuals do not forget those who truly sacrificed and struggled before our time. Seeing these wreaths does cause one to pause and reflect during our movements around the fields. Of course I have never seen any wreaths or flags positioned at the "Home". Again, I am hoping this work will sooner or later help provide a remedy to this oversight.

The Six Photos

As stated from near the beginning, I have provided the six original photographs to you in what I think is their order of creation. How can you tell? Respectfully, I will leave that puzzle to your own judgement.

A Fond Memory

I would like to mention my first brush with the sharpshooter and his "Home". In July of 1968, my great buddy and best friend, Bob Rounds, and I were inspired by a CW-book photograph to travel to Gettysburg and search for the site of a dead sharpshooter lying in the Devil's Den. We loaded the blue Studebaker Hawk and my new Miranda 35-mm and soon were exploring through the overgrown terrain around those conspicuous granite boulders. We ambled around the bushy "Duck" and its stony cohorts. Luckless, we extended our search area. Coming from the east we clambered over a stone wall between two boulders and made contact.

What a thrill for our 16 and 17 years! There it was just like in the book we had carefully carried along -- complete with water lying in that foreground rock. We had discovered the sharpshooter's hiding place! We were amazed that nothing except the rampant growth had changed in 'all these years'. I raised my modern camera to get the exact photo. Backing up, I bumped into something. Moving around the thing we beheld a Park display showing the very same photo. And a path and a road beyond that. Darn. The Park Service had found him first. We hadn't discovered that sharpshooter after all.

We laughed over our "discovery" off and on the rest of that day and many more after. Under the circumstances, what else could we do?


But in a weird twist, during the next decade, the CW community and the Military Park lost its famous sharpshooter. The "F" word began floating around.

Accidents and mistakes are commonplace among humanity. Speaking for myself, I have made many. History is a realm fraught with question. In the case of the questionable sharpshooter, I know I wasn't there. None of us were. But I hope you will agree now that I had very good reason to paint him.

The Sharpshooter's "Home" as it appeared in August of 1997. Taken with the Artist's old Miranda 35mm.

James Clyde Groves,
January, 1998
Frostburg, Maryland

© 1998 James C. Groves. All rights are reserved by the artist. Except for visual Web capture, this manuscript and artworks cannot be reproduced in any manner, for sale or other use, without the artist's written permission.

Registered with the Library of Congress.

Some further details and updates 1999-2002